Friday, March 16, 2012

Defining Moment

I was a hobby runner from about 1979 to around 2006, a runner not a walker, as most of the old school runners I wouldn't think of walking during a race. Jeff Galloway's teachings were for the newbie without the stamina to keep up the pace. Walkers in races were just runner wannabees or worse in the way. Then one day while running down the hill at WKU, I tore some tissue in my left Achilles tendon. Being a purest I still tried to continue my running. A slow three miles would require a 3 day recovery, PT helped but as soon as I tried to resume running the pain would begin again. My last attempt at running was a local 5K on grass, half way through I could no longer tolerate the pain in my tendon and I had to limp in.

We have a few race walkers here in my town and I would see them doing their race usually prior to the run portion and sometimes along with the runners if there wasn't a separate walk race. I decided to give it a try. So I taught myself to walk within the rules of the sport. I was pretty good at it to and did well in local races. So I decided to go to the state Senior Games that are held every year.

I arrived at the track, at the KY Wildcat's sports complex, in Lexington Ky, ready to do my first judged competition. I signed in early and was doing some easy walking to warm up when I heard a group mention race walking. There was a group from a Louisville race walking school there to compete. I walked up to them and introduced myself. The coach, teacher, of the group asked me where I learned to race walk and I told him I was self taught and this was my first judged event. He said, "Well this is the qualifier for next years National Senior Olympics and my students are going to get the slots to go. The best thing for you to do is watch us and learn and then practice for a year then come back, you don't belong at this level of competition."

I slinked off and kept up my continual slow walking laps around the track to keep warm before our race. Then when it was time we lined up for the race. The judge gave us the rules and then we were off. I was dead last and pretty discouraged, at that moment I made a decision, I was going to go as hard as I could go till I couldn't go anymore and see what happened. I decided it was time to find out if I belonged out there or not. So I did the race walk equivalent of a sprint and started passing other walkers and at the finish I was third and had a slot for the Nationals.

The other walkers were a lot friendlier after the race. I took what happened to heart and vowed to always encourage other walkers especially ones new to the sport of race walking. I went to the nationals the next year and placed 8th in the 5K and 9th in the 1500m. Then life kinda had it's way with me for a few years and this year I'm ready to qualify again for next years nationals and hopefully now as a much better and more experienced walker, try for a medal.

Thanks for reading.

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